Sen. Toni Boucher Comments on UConn Campus Sex Assault Case Settlement

July 18, 2014

State Senator Toni Boucher (R-Wilton) ranking member of the General Assembly Higher Education Committee, issued the following statement today after the University of Connecticut announced it will pay $1.28 million in a settlement with five current and former students who filed a federal lawsuit charging that the university mishandled their cases when they were raped or sexually assaulted:

“The victims of sexual assault carry this trauma with them for the rest of their lives. My heart goes out to these brave women and I hope they get the help they need.

“The immediate and proper response to sexual assault, stalking and intimate partner violence on campus is of particular importance as many students leave home for the first time when starting college. They do not usually have access to the support of family and close friends or their community when a traumatic event occurs. The first responders and staff at their university or college become, by default, their lifeline in a crisis. The need for immediate sensitive and compassionate response is vital to a victim’s well-being.

“When a student attends college, he or she should expect their campus to be as safe and secure as it possibly can be. That safety and security must include procedures, policies and programs to ensure other students or staff members do not have to endure what these victims went through.

“This is not merely a Connecticut issue – it is a national issue. The good news is that Connecticut now has model legislation for the rest of the country. As leaders of the state legislature’s Higher Education Committee, we immediately convened to discuss ways to strengthen inadequate campus processes and procedures. Connecticut now has improved services for victims, and we streamlined the often-confusing campus policies dealing with sexual assault.

“The steps taken by UConn have been commendable and should provide added safety, security and sensitivity in response to traumatic incidents. Our priority must continue to be to ensure nothing like this ever happens again, and that starts with assurances from the leaders of our universities that they are listening to students. It also requires training of employees and students on violent assault policies and there must be clear responses and consequences.”

Connecticut’s new law, co-sponsored by Sen. Boucher:

  • Allows victims including employees of college institutions to report incidents of sexual assault anonymously, provided that doing so does not violate state or federal law.
  • Requires schools to provide counseling and advocacy services to students who are victimized off-campus including being sexually assaulted and stalked.
  • Empowers bystanders to prevent such crimes by requiring colleges and universities to provide prevention and awareness training to all students and staff, including a clear explanation of what constitutes consent in a sexual relationship and strategies for bystander intervention.
  • Requires schools to report annually to the legislature about policies on sexual assault, training programs, numbers of sexual assaults and disciplinary action.
  • Require sexual assault response teams to be put in place on campuses and for universities to collaborate with clinics in their area so students have access to free care.

Some of the improvements being undertaken by UConn include:

  • A new Assistant Dean of Students for Victim Support Services position has been created to coordinate services for sexual assault victims.
  • Investigations will be centrally coordinated to avoid confusion and duplication and clarify responsibility.
  • Two new investigators have been hired to support UConn’s investigations.
  • UConn Police Department has created a “Special Victims Unit” comprised of officers specially trained in sexual assault response. Officers from this unit will be available at all times 24/7.
  • A “Bystander Intervention Committee” comprised of students, staff and faculty will be created to develop and oversee UConn’s bystander training and programs.
  • All Resident Assistants (RAs) and supervisors will receive specific sexual assault training.